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It's Jan. 1. Now what?

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Healthy, homemade and real. It can happen for you in 2014.

Healthy, homemade and real. It can happen for you in 2014. by Sarah Henning

Happy Jan. 1. Or, as it's known in most of the Western Hemisphere: the day New Year’s resolutions begin.

Confession: the only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever kept was giving up artificial sweeteners back in 2008. Every other resolution I’ve tried has been far too vague for a scorecard (spend less, save more, etc.).

But I can tell you from personal experience that if you want to start 2014 with a resolution to eat better, whether that’s just to improve the way you feel or because you want to lose 20 pounds, you can do no wrong starting with real, honest-to-god food.

Eating real, nothing-added, no-label-on-it food has been my mission for the past several years.

That said, I used to be of the group of health nuts who thought packed bars, shakes and other manufactured foods were the holy grail. In college, I’d blow all my meager grocery budget on protein bars and “healthy” frozen dinners, while skimping on actual food.

Actual food went bad. It wasn’t consistently the same (taste-wise or calorie-wise), either.

And if my manufactured diet had two attributes, they’d be 1. Shelf life of a Twinkie and 2. As consistent as the factory gods could make it.

While I admit to still buying the occasional protein bar or and sneaking protein powder into my smoothies, I can definitely say that the more I’ve worked to limit my diet to as much about real food as possible, the better it’s been for me.

So, being as it’s my job to inform, here, lovely reader, are my top tips for integrating real, honest-to-no-barcode food for better health, no matter your exact resolution in 2014:

  1. Don’t overbuy. It’s extremely tempting when you’re trying to start eating well to go to the store and drop $200 on tons of food you never eat … and then watch as $100 of it yellows and dies in the fridge or shrivels on the counter. Instead, try to buy on the conservative side of things. Only a few new items at a time.

  2. “Market shop.” And here’s the way not to overbuy but still eat well: Go to the store more than once per week. I know this is not that attractive of an idea to some but buying what you need from the store as you need it/or when you run out is a great way to make sure you actually use those beets or kale or persimmons rather than watching your good intentions rot with them.

  3. Stick to two meals per week. Rather than swing for the fences with a new healthy meal every night and leftovers every day at lunch, I highly recommend picking two nights per week to cook a healthy meal from scratch. Maybe Sunday and Tuesday or Monday and Wednesday. Make enough to have leftovers the next day. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be an everyday grind.

  4. Raid the salad bar for lunch. To avoid having a hard time packing a healthy lunch or raiding your leftovers and ruining your dinner meal plan for the week, head to a salad bar at the beginning of the work week and get enough salad to last you two to three lunches. Just keep the dressing separate and pile your day’s lunch on a separate plate or bowl before dressing it so that it stays fresher, longer.

  5. Put a fruit bowl out on your desk. If hitting the vending machine hard at work is your processed food downfall, I highly suggest bringing a little bowl to set on your desk and fill with fruits — apples, tangerines, pears— at the beginning of the week. It’ll keep hunger pangs at bay and work as a visual reminder of your resolution.

Good luck and good health in 2014.

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